…is a novel by Roberto Bolano that is well worth the read. It is part detective novel, part suspense novel and a delicate and devastating swipe at the Pinochet era in Chile. I bought two books by Bolano and I look forward to the second one.

Great furniture can be a bit like an epic novel, but it can also be something that is out of the ordinary. Bolano’s novel sort of sneaks up on you. I have a pair of rococo mirrors that do the same. They are obviously rococo, but they somehow seem different. They are, both in the way they are carved and in the way they are composed. A little thought and you can see how they are different. I like that about them.

The decorative arts are about interpretation of generally functional forms. I hate to be so non-specific, but some decorative arts are not at all about function. Nevertheless, there is a lot of nuance within those boundaries. Sometimes it is good, sometimes not so, but it is almost never boring. What is really interesting is that it hardly matters what style or era the piece is made in. How nice it is that styles don’t march in lockstep.


A bank teller just asked me if Brussels was in France. The question threw me for a second as I couldn’t imagine it being anywhere but in Belgium. The place where the great chocolate comes from, perhaps? Or might that be the other banlieu known as Switzerland? The mind rambles on.

I would like to say something germane about knowledge, and I will in a second. However, I want to mention this author I just discovered, Roberto Bolano with a tilde over the “n”. His knowledge of South American literature leaves me, a confirmed gringo, aghast. What I have been missing is something I will try hard to re-align. His work is conversational, sort of stream of consciousness but quite coherent, never flight of fancy.

Knowledge is the essence of antique dealing. The only other thing it is about is taste. There are plenty of antiques out there that are not beautiful, some because they have been abused, and some because they were never beautiful in the first place. Good antique dealers have knowledge and there aren’t that many out there. Count yourself lucky if you know one.


There is a lot going on in the English antique furniture business these days. Two of the more venerable dealers in the business are retiring and putting their stock up for sale this autumn. Jeremy and Hotspur of Lowndes Square in London are leaving the business for retirement. Their stock will be for sale at Christie’s in November.

Speaking of Christie’s there were two sales of English furniture at Christie’s, London on Wednesday of this week. The earlier sale of the estate of Simon Sainsbury, the grocery heir, made over sixteen million pounds. The later sale, 12 Exceptional Pieces of English Furniture made over ten million pounds. Clearly, if you wish to buy retail, the auction houses are the place. Should your horizons need expanding and your wallet less exercise, you might drop in on a dealer to experience the wholesale side of the trade.

Finally, the Grosvenor House Fair will miss Jeremy and Hotspur tremendously. Two great dealers with consistently great things for sale are hard to replace. Charlie Mortimer’s assertion that the fair is dying may be closer to the truth than even he realizes. One long time exhibitor confided to me that it just wasn’t worth the investment from his point of view. Another told me that he might drop out for a year or two and yet another felt it just cost too much money. It would be hard to replace such a prestigious event but premature postmortems have a way of being wrong. Lets just say that the road ahead will be different than the road we have all been used to traveling on.


I received a response to my blog on Olympia and Grosvenor House Antiques Fairs from Charlie Mortimer who said, if he doesn’t mind me paraphrasing, that the Grosvenor House Fair is a dinosaur on the way out. That may indeed be the case, but it is still a great fair and this year, more than ever, it was clear that some of the very best English furniture on the market was on display there. The fair has enormous cachet, no matter what Mr. Mortimer might think.

I don’t think it serves the antiques trade well to denigrate a fair, particularly if it is a successful fair from at least the prestige point of view. Whether the promoters charge too much for a booth is a different question, but I would guess that Grosvenor House had a reasonably good attendance this year in line with previous years. Frankly, I hope the fair continues to hold the place that it has for years, because it engenders enthusiasm for the business that I am in. Long may it run.

I would add that dealers who do not do Grosvenor House, for whatever reason be it cost or too limited an inventory or the belief that it may be a dying fair (which I strongly disagree with) are no lesser for not doing it. Knowledge, the dealer’s life blood, is not measured by which fair you are in. The idea is to keep being the best you can be and not worry about anything but one’s own business. The rest will take care of itself.


The two primary antique fairs in London in June are Olympia and Grosvenor House. Olympia opens first and is held in a large spacious exhibition hall. The booths are large and the goods are readily visible and in typical English fashion are generally decorated very well. Pelham Galleries, for example, gave up Grosvenor House to do Olympia because the presentation is so much more gracious. Grosvenor house, however, can’t be exceeded for high quality English and that gold standard hardly quivered this year.

Olympia tends to be a fair where people come back and back just because there is so much to see. Most of the dealers I know did business virtually every day of the fair that I was in London. The atmosphere is relaxed, as a rule, making it a low key affair for any buyer. All the big buyers go to the fair because the quality runs the gamut from decorative to superb. It is a good fair to attend.

Grosvenor House, held in the Grosvenor House Hotel Ballroom, has a consistently higher quality of objects overall. It is the place for people who really care about high end furniture and objects. For example, Ronald Phillips Antiques had an entire wall of chinoiserie, almost making it look common place which it most certainly is not. Hotspur, in the booth across the way, had an extraordinary japanned piece as well. Godson and Coles had an exquisite carved mahogany settee dating circa 1755 and Jeremy had a wonderful sunburst mirrro by Thomas Fentham. I could go on. It was an impressive display. English furniture at this level is spectacular.